Traffic Lights, Nazis, and the Obligation to Obey the Law

Mon, 11/19/2012
4:30 PM, Kerstetter Room, Marx Hall
Event Category: 
Graduate Students

Please join us on Monday, November 19, when Daniel Mark, Ph.D. candidate in Politics, to discuss "Traffic Lights, Nazis, and the Obligation to Obey the Law."  

LEGS, or "Law-Engaged Graduate Students," meets during the academic year to discuss a work in progress by one of our Graduate Associates. Academic papers, dissertation proposals, and dissertation chapters have been presented at these meetings, to an audience of fellow graduate students.

Abstract:  "Is there a general obligation to obey the law?  Does the law have any authority just as law?  In his seminal work, The Concept of Law, HLA Hart changed the way law is understood in the field of jurisprudence.  His two targets, the old positivists' command model of law and the ancient natural law maxim that an unjust law is no law, are indeed flawed, but Hart went too far in rejecting them completely.  In particular, Hart's rejection of the command model of law leaves him unable to account for what he identifies as a central feature of law:  the obligation to obey.  This, in turn, exposes what is wrong with his positivism in general.  I argue, instead, for a revised version of the command model that incorporates the normative idea of law's role in promoting the common good.  This new theory does a better job of answering Hart's critiques while avoiding the problems with his view, and it is our best bet for accounting for the authority of law."

Daniel Mark is a doctoral candidate in the Department of Politics at Princeton University (expected completion: spring 2013). His subfields are public law, political theory, and political philosophy His dissertation is in legal philosophy, examining the question of whether there is an obligation to obey the law.  His academic interests include: constitutional law; philosophy of law; analytic jurisprudence; contemporary political theory; political theology; the intersection of politics, law, and religion; and American government.  His current research interests include: the nature of legal obligation; theories of authority; religious freedom and the First Amendment; the nature of and relationship between political (or civic) and religious identity; constitutional stability and instability; and comparative constitutionalism.